Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Roman Baths


The Roman Baths complex is a site of historical interest in the English city of Bath. The house is a well-preserved Roman site for public bathing.
The Roman Baths themselves are below the modern street level. There are four main features: the Sacred Spring (below), the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House and the Museum holding finds from Roman Bath. The buildings above street level date from the 19th century.

The first shrine at the site of the hot springs was built by Celts and was dedicated to the goddess Sulis, whom the Romans identified with Minerva.  The name Sulis continued to be used after the Roman invasion, leading to the town's Roman name of Aquae Sulis (literally, "the waters of Sulis"). The temple was constructed in 60-70 AD and the bathing complex was gradually built up over the next 300 years.   During the Roman occupation of Britain, and possibly on the instructions of Emperor Claudius, engineers drove oak piles to provide a stable foundation into the mud and surrounded the spring with an irregular stone chamber lined with lead. In the second century it was enclosed within a wooden barrel-vaulted building, and included the caldarium (hot bath), tepidarium (warm bath), and frigidarium (cold bath).

The baths have been modified on several occasions, including the 12th century when John of Tours built a curative bath over the King's Spring reservoir and the 16th century when the city corporation built a new bath (Queen's Bath) to the south of the Spring.  The spring is now housed in eighteenth century buildings, designed by architects John Wood, the Elder and John Wood, the Younger, father and son. Visitors drank the waters in the Grand Pump Room, a neo-classical salon which remains in use, both for taking the waters and for social functions.
 Victorian expansion of the baths complex followed the neo-classical tradition established by the Woods.  The visitor entrance is via an 1897 concert hall by J M Brydon. It is an eastward continuation of the Grand Pump Room with a glass-domed centre and single-storey radiused corner. The Grand Pump Room was begun in 1789 by Thomas Baldwin. He resigned in 1791 and John Palmer continued the scheme until its completion in 1799.  The elevation on to Abbey Church Yard has a centre piece of four engaged Corinthian columns with entablatures and pediment.

The museum houses artefacts from the Roman period including objects which were thrown into the Sacred Spring, presumably as offerings to the goddess. These include more than 12,000 Roman currency coins which is the largest collective votive deposit known from Britain. A gilt bronze head of the goddess Sulis Minerva, which was discovered nearby in 1727, is displayed.

I drank the water in the pump room and felt the warmth from the bath, and honestly, it did make me feel good.  The water, particularly, is like a tonic, slightly salty, with an hit of sulfur. 

Bath is a really pleasant looking town due to the predominant use of  Bath Stone in the buildings.  Bath Stone is an Oolitic Limestone comprising granular fragments of calcium carbonate. Originally obtained from the Combe Down and Bathampton Down Mines under Combe Down, Somerset, England, its warm, honey colouring gives the World Heritage City of Bath, England its distinctive appearance.

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